June 27, 2012 | By rainey Reitman

Senate Commerce Committee Considers Do Not Track & Online Tracking Thursday

Follow Thursday's Senate Hearing on Do Not Track Through the EFFLive Twitter Account

Do Not Track (DNT) will be in the news yet again this week. In the wake of Microsoft's decision to ship Internet Explorer 10 with Do Not Track on (DNT-1) by default and following face-to-face negotiations last week in Bellevue, Washington, the Senate Commerce Committee will take up Do Not Track at a hearing on Thursday at 10 am EST.

Do Not Track sends a simple signal that tells websites that a user doesn’t want to be tracked and served ads based on the data gathered from tracking. In a previous post, we've shown how users can turn the signal on in their browser settings. Currently, the W3C's Tracking Protection Working Group—of which EFF is an invited expert—is working on how to define standards for companies to respect the Do Not Track signal.

The DAA wants Do Not Track to mean "Pretend Not To Track"

Since Do Not Track is not yet a finalized standard, the current standard in place is a list of "principles" created by the Digital Advertising Alliance, the latest self-regulatory organization for online behavioral advertising. Unfortunately, the "principles" are very weak at protecting users who turn on Do Not Track. If you connect to a first party website like ESPN.com, affiliated companies like Disney.com (ESPN's parent company is The Walt Disney Company), and completely unrelated data brokers, are still able to obtain large amounts of data about you and your viewing habits. Such low standards would not offer protection against non-consensual collection of people's reading habits or against companies like Google that have been caught circumventing the privacy settings of users. In fact, the DAA principles would be more accurately titled "Do Not Target," or "Pretend Not To Track," than "Do Not Track."

EFF is adamant about creating a Do Not Track standard that favors user choice and protects user privacy. This is even more important when users are clear that they dislike online behavioral advertising. A wide variety of studies confirm this fact, with the most recent being a Pew study that found 68% of users were "not okay" with having their "online behavior tracked and analyzed."

This week's hearing will look at the self-regulatory regime and follow up on advertisers' pledge to the FTC about not collecting users' personal information when using Do Not Track. It will also look at the current state of self-regulation, how it's working, and how advertisers can do a better job at protecting user privacy while also providing them with online advertising. The hearing will take place at 10 am EST and we'll be live tweeting it on our @EFFLive account. See you there!




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